L keeps things in perspective, Part One – Food

I like to think that I have been blessed with a certain amount of common sense and that as I’ve grown older, it’s become a knack for keeping things in perspective. Of course, I can still go disastrously wrong, and sometimes my perspective is fought off by my stubbornness in a series of late-night battles, but sometimes it goes right.

Right now, one of my latest designs on myself is keeping food in perspective. This is in light of the vast majority of my coworkers diligently going to the gym while I forgo the pleasure. Although I am mostly happy with how I look – and have been for a while – there are occasions where the self-consciousness re-emerges like a weed. I treat it as a reminder to keep myself in check. One of the ways I will try to do this is by keeping an eye on portion sizes of what I eat, because for me, it’s not so much about what I eat as how much.

The idea that the portion given to me was not necessarily the amount I should be eating occurred to me when I started thinking too hard about a chicken breast. (I know. Right now it seems like I have an obsession with chicken – I assure you I don’t.) This was your average chicken breast out of a storebought pack, ready to be prepared for some chicken tetrazini, just lying there on the chopping board.

The thought came unbidden, “That thing is about the size of half of my face. I know it shrinks a little when cooking, but…it’d be like I was eating half a face. Or, hell, that could almost be a young girl’s growing breast, much less a chicken’s, if you bunch it up a little. A young girl is not a chicken. There’s something wrong, there.”

Told you I keep things in perspective – I never said it’d be a normal textbook one.

I carried on cooking, but this half-humourous observation made me think about other portions. I also thought about the supposed ‘cast-iron’ stomach I’d inherited from my father that only acknowledged fullness when I looked pregnant. I decided to read up on the stomach.

The stomach is about the size of your fist. It is designed to hold about a litre of properly-chewed food/liquids, and expand to accommodate up to 2/2.5 litres depending. It has different parts designed to do different stages of digestion. (As an aside, for those easily-squeamed, reading about the digestive process is ironically enough to put you off your food.) Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was a part of a whole stomach, I’d want some space to work and not feel rushed off my feet by a seemingly never-ending torrent of food to process and move along.

Also, let’s consider: my fist is about a quarter of my face (I have small hands, too). That chicken breast is about half of my face. I’ve still got to accommodate the pasta and the mushroom sauce and the juice and the dessert… Even after chewing (and you’re supposed to chew your food a lot more thoroughly than I’m sure many of us do, particularly meat), I’m fairly certain I’m over my poor stomach’s quota.

I decided to read up on proper food portions. My sense of uneasiness was proved well founded and I discovered that my small fists will finally prove useful:

  • A serving size for most meats is the palm of your hand (not your whole hand), a little smaller (a deck of cards) for red meat.
  • Likewise, carbs (pastas, rice) should be no more than half a cup to a cup (in my case, again, my tiny fist).
  • Visually and relative to each other, your plate should actually consist half of vegetables/fruit, a quarter of carb and a quarter of protein. Now take into account what your stomach can actually hold, and I’m sure you’ll follow that our plates tend to be bigger than they need to be.

Take a look here for a good, simple way to gauge your portions:. In short, everything in moderation! If it helps, I find that whatever I’m given at a restaurant is probably about twice to three times as much as I should eat in one sitting.

It’s probably also worth mentioning right now that contrary to popular belief, meal size according to day should go like this: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, sup like a pauper. Needless to say you also shouldn’t eat too late into the evening / close to bedtime, as both digestion and sleep can be affected.

Okay, I think I’m done being a nagging momma for now.

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